- Ingvard Ashby
Business ownership while entering political office opens up all sorts of ethical concerns. Unfortunately, we live in a Donald Trump presidency; despite proclamations during his campaign, he did not put his business under the direction of a blind trust. He merely turned it over to his children while they also held positions in the White House.
We’ve come a long way since Jimmy Carter outright sold his peanut farm before taking office and still have to endure a Senate investigation.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt rode Trump’s coattails as a businessman-turned-politician who never served in public office before being elected to the state’s highest office.
Unlike Trump, Stitt did take proper ethical measures of turning Gateway Mortgage Group (now Gateway First Bank following a merger with Farmer’s Exchange Bank) to a family trust run by James Redman. Stitt remains the owner, but stepped away from management of the company, according to The Frontier.
But he is facing scrutiny after the Quality Jobs Program Incentive Approval Committee, which features two members Stitt appointed, voted to approve tax dollars for Gateway First Bank.
The incentive program targets companies with a payroll of more than $2.5 million, according to The Frontier, and the program is designed to create job growth. Gateway first entered the program in 2016 and has received more than $876,000 over that time — a little less than half of the $1.8 million it was eligible to receive, according to The Frontier.
Charles Prater, one of the board members appointed by Stitt, told The Frontier that Stitt’s position played no role in renewing the incentive program for Gateway but also admitted that Gateway would create jobs without the incentive money.
“But if the credit’s there, why wouldn’t they take advantage of it? That’s just good business,” Prater told The Frontier.
It might be good business, but it’s ethically murky.